International Herald Tribune
By DAYO OLOPADE
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, in Sudan in August 2006.
DJIBOUTI — The only person I’ve ever met who was in the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.) is a Ugandan man named Francis. He was abducted by the group sometime in the late 1990s, when he was a teenager, and forced to march from central Uganda to what is now South Sudan. During a firefight with the Ugandan national army, Francis escaped with his best friend. They had never spoken aloud. The L.R.A. enforced silence on marches.
The older Francis is a soldier again. But he isn’t in Uganda. He’s in Iraq. Like many well-trained local fighters, he’s gone to fill the vacuum left after the United States military fled its war of choice.
I met Francis only once, last summer, in passing, but “Kony 2012” made me remember his story. The viral video by the American nonprofit Invisible Children showcases Joseph Kony, the madman at the helm of the L.R.A. who has been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. The video calls for his arrest this year and for public pressure on the U.S. military to stay in the hunt. Thanks to it, some 50 million viewers, mostly non-Ugandans who understood nothing of Kony, now have the knowledge to despise him as much as a generation of Northern Ugandan families.
Except that hardly anyone in Uganda is talking about him. I spent most of February in Kampala and environs, and there Kony was a whisper on nobody’s lips. Even since the United States sent 100 Special Forces (pdf) to Central Africa in the fall to assist in the chase, both he, and the L.R.A., remain far from a mainstream concern. Read more…